Create Professional Comics With Manga Studio EX

The serious comic book and manga artist's choice for drawing, graphics, and page layout apps, Manga Studio EX's new version 4 premiered to much fanfare late summer 2008 at Comicon International: San Diego. Already in use by a wide variety of comics professionals, including Dave Gibbons of WATCHMEN fame, version 4 ($300, free demo) adds full-featured color support.

You might think it strange that a popular all-in-one comics app such as this had anemic color support in previous versions. However, since 90% or more of all manga produced in Japan are done in black and white with color covers, and since Manga Studio is a translation of a Japanese app, the lack of color in version 3 makes sense. That's all been rectified now, as the color tools in EX 4 are on par with the latest version of Photoshop. For the first time, a full-color comics pro can work from scratch to finished product without ever firing up Photoshop.

There are two versions of Manga Studio 4: this full-featured EX version and a lower-priced, and feature-lite, Debut app. Anyone who is actually going to publish their own manga or create it for other publishers will want to skip straight ahead to this version. Though it is expensive ($300), upgrades from Debut or EX 3 are cheaper ($200 and $130, respectively), and publisher Smith Micro runs sales all the time.

Other additions in this version include better lettering support, exporting as TIFF (a must for some publishers!) and over 550 3D objects, which can be added to your artwork as is or converted into line art for a more natural appearance.

Note that this isn't just an augmented version 3: several functions have been changed or moved around since version 3. For example, the method for creating speech balloons and balloon tails and lettering them has been totally reworked for EX 4. You'll want to get up to speed on all the little changes before you get frustrated.

The previous version of EX never worked 100% with Vista and a graphics tablet together, forcing users to stick with XP to get full use out of it. That's all been fixed now, and Manga Studio is now 100% Vista compatible.

If you're a student fresh out of art school or a comics artist looking to break into the big time, you're going to want to add Manga Studio EX 4 to your repertoire.

Note: The 30-day demo version of Manga Studio EX 4 has numerous limitations, as noted in the readme file. Among them are the inability to open Manga Studio files, import anything but JPGs or BMPs, and the inability to export or print at all.

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